If an ambulance is taking you away from an auto accident, you may not even know where your wallet is, let alone how you’re going to pay. And after the ER visit, you may face expenses for:

  • Radiology (such as X-rays) and laboratory tests
  • Follow-up and ongoing medical examinations and treatment
  • Transportation to medical treatment
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications
  • Canes, splints, braces, and other health equipment

If you were at fault in the accident or it was a situation where no one is really at fault – say, a deer ran out in front of you – your health insurance should pay these bills. However, if you are involved in an accident with one or more other vehicles and the other driver is at fault, their motor vehicle insurance should ultimately pay these bills. Unfortunately, insurance companies often delay admitting fault or accept only partial responsibility for a wreck, leaving you with growing out-of-pocket expenses. How do you respond? And what happens if the insurance companies or health care providers won’t provide what they’re obligated to?

Your Auto Insurance Rights after an SC Accident

In South Carolina, every driver is required by law to carry minimum levels of liability coverage on their auto insurance:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 total limit for bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

This basic coverage helps pay for injuries and damages to other parties when the driver is liable for an accident. SC also requires coverage for uninsured motorists (UM) at the same limits. Nonetheless, this level of coverage may not be enough if the driver causes a serious accident or one that involves several injured people.

It is wise to carry more coverage for yourself if you can, as well as underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on your own auto. That is “first-party coverage”—a policy that you buy to insure yourself against accidents. UIM coverage kicks in after the other driver’s liability limit is exhausted, which can be especially helpful if they carried only minimum limits.

MedPay coverage is another first-party option you can take on your auto insurance. This allows you to make a claim to pay medical bills as soon as possible without going through a fault-finding process first. Unfortunately, MedPay coverage limits are typically set relatively low, not enough to cover serious injuries and ongoing treatment.


Partial liability can reduce or eliminate a damage claim. Under South Carolina law, you cannot recover damages for an accident if a jury finds that you were 51% or more at fault for what happened. If you were found to share some percentage of fault, you are still entitled to damages, but they will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

However, most car accident injury cases never end up in court, so who determines the percentage of fault then? Initially, this analysis falls to the insurance companies of the drivers involved. Once they learn of the accident, insurance adjusters will investigate and produce a report, stating a percentage of fault that will be the basis of the settlement offer. They may even use software algorithms to determine the amount they will pay.

Naturally, the other driver’s insurance company is not on your side. Insurance companies lose money on payouts, and they prefer to avoid them or else pay as little as possible.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help protect your rights as an accident victim. They can investigate the accident and handle the claim process, negotiating with the insurance company and refuting unjust claims about your level of fault in the accident.

All this happens in the days and weeks after a wreck. Meanwhile, you have to go to the hospital or the doctor’s office. What do you tell the provider’s billing department about your situation? Usually you present your health insurance, if you have it—but after an accident, this can become complicated.

Preserving Your Rights During Treatment

When you seek treatment after an accident, the hospital will present you with lots of paperwork. This may include an agreement to pay your bills out of any settlement you receive for your injury— often characterized as an “assignment of benefits”, “medical lien” or “health provider lien.”

As you may know, health insurance companies negotiate payments with health care providers. Insurers pay set prices for healthcare procedures, which are lower than the providers’ standard charges. Given the opportunity, a provider would rather bill a patient with an injury settlement to recover the difference between the health insurer’s rate and their own stated charge. This is called “balance billing.”

Thanks to a new federal law, balance billing is no longer allowed in many cases, including most emergency care. (See here for more information.) However, you may still need your personal injury attorney to help you determine which charges you are obligated to pay.

What’s more, your health insurance company may also place a lien on your settlement to recover what it paid, on the principle that the at-fault driver is liable for the damages. This is called subrogation, and your health insurance policy may or may not allow them to do this. Your attorney can help determine what the health insurer can lawfully claim. They may also be able to negotiate a better deal for you.

Your Charleston and Columbia Personal Injury Attorneys

If you have been involved in an accident, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Consult our guide to accident response for a run-down on how the process works. At Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, we can handle accident investigations, medical records, and negotiations from the outset. Let us address these complicated issues while you focus on your health and recovery. Call us at (803) 888-2200 to schedule your free initial appointment.